Friday, November 30, 2012

Armchair Training - Hassock Drills

Hassock Drills: Here's something I do with my old hassock that really taxes Maxie's and Pepper's brain -- they have to walk backwards to go forward, and forward to go backwards. They have to be really careful with their feet, take turns, and stay focused. I can do this indoors with little prep time, sitting in my chair, in slippers and PJ's while watching TV. Now that's my kind of training, and great when the weather is too hot or cold to train outdoors, or when I'm tired but the dogs are anxious to do tricks and earn treats, or when I'm nursing a leg injury and can barely walk!

I also use it with 50# Lucky Lucy, but haven't managed to take a video yet. People spend a lot of money on training aides -- plastic bubbles, inflated peanuts, etc. -- that need to be stored when not in use.  But my hassock stays in the living room all the time and serves as my foot prop, grooming table, TV tray, etc.  It's an inexpensive and handy piece of furniture ($20, Walmart)  that I'd be lost without.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Agility Seminar with Tanya Lee - My Notes

Our club's beautiful agility field, on a cool November day, perfect for a seminar.
Our local dog club hosted its 2nd agility seminar of 2012 two weekends back, it so happens, on my birthday.  We brought in Tanya Lee from north Louisiana, who competes with her border collie, Boost, and serves as Trial Secretary for the Ouichita Valley Dog Training Club out of Monroe, LA.

She sent out requests for what we wanted to cover, I replied FOUNDATION WORK, and that's just what we got.  I was well pleased.  Below are my class notes and sketches.

Below, D stands for Dog, H stands for Handler.

I brought Pepper for the Friday Beginners class from 2-4:30.  Content as follows:

Impulse Control:
Should be 80% of training until dog is calm and in control, 20% agility.  Best way to teach this is Susan Garrett's Crate Games and Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed DVDs.  Everyone should have these. Your home life is the indicator of what will happen in agility.  Start training at home.

To perfect Impulse Control, and get your dog paying attention to YOU, she placed a dog on the table with handler in front, then looked for things like "front paws still, ears forward, mouth open, shoulders relaxed, and dog's eyes focused on handler".  CLICK/TREAT for one behavior, then another, then a combination of 2 or 3. When all are lined up, then JACKPOT.  She did this for about 10 minutes with the same dog, increasing the distractions little by little.

Obstacle Focus:
D and H at take off side of a jump, D sits in front, H off to the side.  Every time D looks at jump, CLICK/TREAT.  H moves in various places, including landing side of jump, and repeats.  Never release D to take an obstacle until D is looking at it.  Similarly, place D before tunnel entrance, handler to the side.  Every time D turns their head toward the tunnel entrance, CLICK TREAT.  Handler eventually increases distance from D, and when D looks at tunnel entrance, release and run the sequence.

Never release using D's name.  "Pepper, tunnel" is wrong.  When you call their name, they look at you instead of obstacle. Calling their name should mean "look at me, come to me".

SATURDAY 8-12/SUNDAY 7:30-11
I alternated Maxie and Lucky during both Saturday and Sunday classes, which was not the best idea as skills were built upon one another and neither dog got the full compliment.  But it worked out OK because Tanya's main focus was on training the handlers.  I got the usual advice:
  • I don't run, am slowing my dogs down, etc.  Get on the treadmill every day and sprint.
  • My arms are too high.  Hold them no higher than the dog's jump
  • Point to the path, not the obstacle.
  • Should not call name of obstacle if it is in D's path.  They should know to take what is in front of them unless you call them off.
  • I don't have the courses completely memorized ahead of time so I hesitate.  She recommends studying the course maps thoroughly before walking the course. It's imperative that by the time I run my dog, I need to be able to not "think", just "do".  Figuring things out as I go along just confuses the dog! 

  • Blind crosses should be done as far ahead of D as possible and while D is looking the other way.
  • Rears as far behind D as possible.
  • Fronts ON the dog's running line, not way past it and as far forward as possible. Timing is important.

We practiced blind crosses and ketchker maneuvers on each and every drill.  She explained when these maneuvers are the very best moves to make in certain situations.
1. Turning into D always signals collection.  Pull through, ketchker. Ketchker lets you signal collection while at the same time keeping D on same side. It is a reverse post turn. It says "stay tight to me".
2.  Turning away from D always signals extension.  Post turn. 
3. Collection become more important for larger, faster dogs than for small dogs.

Commitment Point: It's important to support the obstacle until D commits to it, then LEAVE.  D's commitment point should be long before D takes off.  Learn to recognize it, then get going to your next point.  Commitment Point is different for each dog.

Zone Of Information:  D should definitely know which obstacle they are going to next BEFORE they take the current obstacle. This tells them how to gauge themselves over the current obstacle (extension, collection, lead change). Do you know when you tell D what the next obstacle is going to be?  Is it too soon?  Too late?  When is the proper zone of information for your D?  Ideally, you should name the next obstacle as soon as they commit to the previous obstacle.

LEAVING:  Leaving is different from a send, because YOU are leaving.  Taught with target work.  Dog's job is to take the obstacle you indicate no matter what you are doing.  Train this by having them "drive to a target" over an obstacle, such as food, while you are going the opposite way.  Here's a diagram:

Obstacle Commitment:
D should take whatever is between you and them without instruction.  Here's an exercise to develop this skill.  Work both sides and using different equipment.

Jump Slices:
Teach D to take jumps from every angle.  As the slices get more and more angled, D gets closer and closer to the jump cups.  It's important the jump cups aren't sharp or jagged, which could result in injury.

  • Everyone should do lots of pinwheel work.
  • Dogs read your feet more than your upper body.  Be mindful where your feet are pointing.  Face the path, not the obstacle.
  • Hold your hand low, point to the bar not over it.
  • Use verbals when your body disagrees with what you want.
  • In training, use a clicker.
  • Noel got some ultra light tennies at Payless called Champion Light, on sale for $19
  • Tanya recommends New Balance Minimum shoes.  Helps you run lighter and on your toes.  She does not recommend heel to toe running, nor heavy soled shoes.
  • Tanya NEVER runs full courses, except at trials.  She works on foundation skills every day.  Foundation.  Foundation.  Foundation. Best way to kill your dog's enthusiasm for agility is to consistently make them run 20 obstacles before you pay them.
Well, that's all I can remember.  My job was to set up and keep the portable PA system working, which I did.  Sunday, I made a wonderful discovery.  Rather than stretch speaker wire out over the ground and move the equipment table to different areas of the field where we were working, I put the entire system in the wagon, including the speaker, and wheeled it around to wherever we wanted.  No more hauling stuff.  No more wires stretched out.  It made my job so much easier. So simple. Why didn't I think of that 2 years ago?

I sent Tanya a link to this page, and here's what she wrote back:

Wow....extremely comprehensive analysis of what was covered.  Great recap and I hope you share with others in your club.  Most excellent job!

I sent the link to Georgie, our seminar organizer, for distribution and she sent it out for Christmas.  Cool!

Upwards and onward!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lake Charles Agility Trial–Thanksgiving Weekend 2012

Maxie: 6 runs, 3 Q’s, 0 QQ’s, 35 MACH points 6 videos
Lucky Lucy: 6 runs, 0 Q’s, 4 videos

This trip began with stress and ended without it. I had the remnants of an old flu flare up after the agility seminar last weekend.  Bone weary from coughing and lack of sleep, I managed to pack the RV by parking the motor home right at the front door and moving things in there whenever I got out of bed for coffee, meds, or to powder my nose.  Plus, my RV fridge had mysteriously crapped out.  Wouldn’t work on A/C or LP.  John and I worked on the problem Wednesday night and Thursday, to no avail, so I ended up using it like a cooler, filled with frozen blocks of ice.  I ran both Maxie and Lucky thru the weaves 4 times before leaving home, and every time with both of them was fast and accurate.  I know the key to this weekend’s Q’s is going to be the weaves.

2012-11-23 002 003 (640x480)
Pit Grill, Iowa, LA
I always stop at the Pit Grill in Iowa, 8 miles before Lake Charles, and buy hot boudin balls to share with agility friends as a Thanksgiving treat. They are large, spicy, the best I've ever tasted, and only .50 cents apiece. This time I remembered to take some photos of the place. It’s a great grassy shady clean place to stop, pottie the dogs, and get refreshments.

I got to Lake Charles about 10:30 Friday without incident, and to my amazement the RV slot closest to the arena was open!  I grabbed it.  Would save me many steps all weekend.  I had 3 hours to set up before check-in. Thank goodness for that!

My RV, me and 4 dogs, on asphalt.  No grass,
no trees, even in winter, if it's sunny, it's hot inside.
Plugged in, and no electric power.  Stretched to the 2nd slot and still no power.  I went looking for the maintenance man, who confirmed both outlets were live.  My electric line wasn’t working.  He checked my fuses and breakers -- all fine. He opened the plug and found the screws in there were loose.  He tightened them up and presto, I had power.  Good thing because in the afternoon, cool as it was outdoors, it was getting uncomfortably warm in the RV.  Also, the refrigerator began working immediately! Hurray!  John had checked the plug back home but somehow had not fixed it. It was the cause of all our problems. I gave a few boudin balls to the maintenance man, who had refused a tip.
FRIDAY: Dogs ran Small to Tall.
Maxie’s first run was XJ,  a Q 3rd place, and covering 3.91 YPS, was among his fastest runs ever.  He’s only topped that once back in November 2010, at 4.32 YPS on his AXJ TITLE RUN.  Yikes!  Digging for that info, I realize we’ve been trialing 2 years since then, 17 trials, and only 10 QQ’s.  Not a stellar record.  Maxie’s 2nd run a “nearly Q” (he ran fast and sure but walked the weaves and popped out of the last pole). But the score sheets show 1R and 1E. I still cant’ figure out the score sheets.

Lucky’s 1st run was clean but 4 seconds over time, and her 2nd run was aborted after 5 obstacles due to a timer malfunction. Starting over, I couldn't get her focus back, resulting in 2 mistakes, but some parts of it were good.  My nose was dripping. My head was full of cotton. I was still standing, I didn’t get lost on course, and that was victory enough for me.
SATURDAY: Dogs ran tall to small.
Lucky first.  XS she took the wrong end of the far tunnel (a WC, my fault), got an E for missing the dog walk contact, and another E I can’t figure.  Maybe for not taking the tunnel correctly after doing it wrong? Her 2nd run didn’t get videoed.  All I remember is missing most of the walk-through and having to run it after watching about 10 others run, and the resulting NQ.  More on that under VISITORS below.  But it wasn’t  so bad for all that.  We only had 1 R and nearly made course time.

Maxie missed the weave entry on XS, otherwise a nice run.  He Q’d in XJ and ran darn fast, 3.5 YPS, but placed 6th.  There are some new 8” dogs on the scene, Sadie the Welsh Corgi for one, and a 3 year old Papillon named Bodie who has already MACHed, both of whose time usually exceeds Maxie’s by 10 to 15 seconds.
SUNDAY: Small to Tall again, and Excellent dogs on the line at 8 a.m. Up, therefore, at 5:45, to make sure I had enough layers of clothes on and coffee in me by 8 to function.
Maxie’s last chance for a QQ. Alas, he Q’d only once with a 1st place, but missed the other Q by just one wee tiny pop out at the weaves.
Lucky jumping the 24" tripple in Kiln last month.
Lucky the same, one clean and one mistake on the other, but always over course time.
One booboo I made with Lucky was failing to raise her jump height to 24”.  That worked well in her last trial and I had until Nov 19th to change it for this one, but forgot.  Had I done so, she would have had an extra four seconds on her clean run, and qualified.  And maybe been more excited to participate in the other runs.

There were flies, but she didn't try snapping them all up like last year.  In fact, she hardly noticed them.

I didn't bother posting Lucky's runs.  Nothing remarkable, somewhat painful to watch.  But here's a composite of Maxie's 6 videos, with commentary.  A few interesting points worth sharing:
  • This judge asked teams to enter the ring when the previous dog was only half way through the course. It was harder to keep my dogs focused in front of that first obstacle. I had to shake hands, walk them around, reposition them.  Over the gate keeper's protests that the "judge would get mad", I quickly started going in at the usual time - about 4-5 obstacles to go.  Even at that, there were delays.
  • Another timer malfunction makes me question whether our times were accurate.
  • When front crosses go wrong and you NQ as a result.

Audrey standing in front of the arena, with L to R,
Maxie, Willow, Pepper and Lucky Lucy
VISITORS:  Per her usual custom, Audrey drove over on Saturday and spent the afternoon with me.  She brought some of my favorite thanksgiving dishes – her sweet potato & green bean casseroles.  Unfortunately, her arrival coincided with what should have been my walkthrough for Lucky’s jumpers run.  I lost focus, only got to walk it 4 times, was not well prepared and of course, NQ’d. When they whistled everyone off the course and I grumbled of the short walkthrough (someone outside had told me the judge was still tweaking the course), the scribe said they had been calling and calling for me and where was I.  I explained about company arriving, the judge overheard and said “Best way to do agility is to tell your family and friends to stay home!”  With 2 dogs running and soon 3, and the amount of concentration required to be in the right place at the right time, with the right dog and all the right things in my pockets, and all the other dogs tucked safely away, my opportunities for visiting are dwindling fast.  It's nice to have someone help you walk the dogs and cheer you on though.
  • Came home with only 3 Q’s under our belt out of 12 runs, but I’m okay with that considering how under the weather I felt.
  • I tried taking Tanya's advise to study the course maps, but they don't hold the earlier allure.  I find I can memorize the courses by walking them 10 to 15 times, then walking them in my head several times.  The visualization is what sets it.
  • We had the same judge all weekend - Sarah Beathard.  I thought trials were required to have 2 different judges, so Novice and Open teams can title.
  • This was our last trial of 2012. 
2012 GOALS MET:  Maxie 10 QQ’s, 574 MACH points

  • Maxie didn’t earn his Masters Bronze titles, 2 Q’s to go in Jumpers and 3 in Standard to make 25 of each.
  • Lucky didn't earn her Masters Standard title, 2 Q's to go for that.
  • My dogs are not still not running their weaves at trials.
  • I am still not running fast enough, thus my dogs aren't running fast enough.

  • Bronze Titles for Maxie by next spring
  • MX title for Lucky by next spring
  • MACH for Maxie in 2013 (10 more QQ's, and 232 MACH points, will require more trials further away from home.)
  • Run faster, exercise, plug in the tread mill and use it.
  • Control my arms from flapping around, keep them down.
  • I would say "lose weight", but every time I say that I gain weight.  So I'll pray to not feel hungry as often.
  • I would say "stop smoking" but every time I say that I smoke more.  So I'll pray that I just forget to reach for a cigarette as often.
  • I would say "quit drinking" but every time I say that I drink in defiance.  So I'll pray that I'm just too busy to get fuzzy headed.  I only drink when there's nothing interesting to do.
  • Train small skills more frequently, indoors and out.
  • Work with Pepper in fun ways on impulse control, leash work, obstacle focus.  Train in different ways from the standard "run sequences an hour a week" we've been taught to do.  Add more clicker training, shadow handling, fundamentals.
  • Advance the sport of agility in any way I can.  Make it safer, funner, less intimidating.
  • ”Ear To Pocket” – that’s what your hands are supposed to do when you run fast, and you’re supposed to hold your palms open, not make fists.  Supposedly relaxes you and makes you go faster. 
  • Yes, I do flail my arms around too much, per Tanya Lee’s observations of me at the seminar. I do need to hold my arms down.
  • How to disassemble and check a 30 amp electric plug.
  • Walking 4 dogs at once is a feat, especially when one of them is a puppy who rear crosses the other dogs every 3-5 seconds.  What a tangled mess.  I borrowed one of Nathan's double leashes with the swivel on the end, and that helped, but the most help was resigning myself to walking only 2 dogs at a time.
  • Susan Cohen, whose dog ? rear legs are crippled so he runs around with his back half on wheels, told me about her research for the very best unit, and that she wanted to share the information.  I agreed to post it on my blog – next post.
  • Met 4 Bearded Collie owners, got their emails to send them the Weave Performance Study I did last year in Lake Charles which included their dogs.
  • Saw lots of very cute puppies, a few in breeds I’ve not seen puppies of – beardies and goldens.  Oh lordie, seems everyone is getting a new puppy.
  • Need a bigger AC unit on my RV.  The little one I have barely kept us cool in the middle of a sunny day in winter, parked on asphalt.  I’m going for a 15,000 BTU if 30 amps can handle it.
On the drive home, with traffic flowing smoothly and dogs all sacked out, I remembered how last year an orange truck had overturned on the interstate and everyone idled along at 3 mph for about 5 hours. And I just about ran out of gas and called 911 for advice before an exit appeared.  Now that was stressful.  Without that impediment this time, I got home full of energy and unpacked for 2 hours while John watched the Saints game.  Long hot bath with a vodka and grapefruit juice, bowl of soup, and then I slept like a baby.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Celebrating my 66th Birthday

Georgie, Me, and Tanya Lee
I celebrated my birthday yesterday doing exactly what I wanted . . . attending a weekend long agility seminar hosted by our local dog club.  Georgie Myers was our seminar organizer and did a fabulous job, and Tanya Lee from Shreveport was our instructor.  They posed with me briefly for this photo, but it was a hard one to get because Tanya is so bubbling over with enthusiasm to share information that it's almost impossible to find a momentary pause in her teaching.

My husband, John, paid my seminar fee as my birthday present, and family/friends agreed to postpone my birthday celebration until a later date.  Everyone who called with well wishes had to leave me a message because I didn't have time to answer my phone, and was so exhausted each evening I didn't even open my computer. Mom sent me a thick book on "Health Secrets For Seniors" by Bottom Line, which I suppose makes me an official "senior" now.  Laura dropped off a vegan birthday cake and a vegan loaf of bread from Whole Foods Sunday evening, but I was soaking in the bathtub and missed her visit.  Hopefully we'll share them on Wednesday night after going to the movies.  I want to see Lincoln.

Another great gift, Laura and I are both so tired of feeling so tired all the time, we're both interested in exploring Nathan's new vegan diet.  It's great having a friend with similar interests. Before the weekend I prepared a few recipes from the Forks Over Knives Thanksgiving collection, a butternut squash soup using Vegetable Broth and curry instead of my usual Chicken Broth, salt and pepper (and it tastes great).  I made vegan sausage, took notes on how to vary it, and used it in place of Jimmy Dean's sausage in my usual smothered cabbage dish.  Looks and tastes so good and the texture is so similar, I doubt I'll miss the meat.  I made a cous cous dish using veggie broth, which was tasty.  On the other hand, the next day I mixed the cous cous with a raw scrambled egg and fried up little pancakes in butter, which were scrumptous!   And my friend Thom, who fries turkeys and caters parties, gave me the bones from 3 turkeys as per our usual Thanksgiving custom, so I boiled the bones, plucked off the meat, and made a huge vat of turkey soup. It's so yummy I don't know how I can back off of that tradition, or how I'll do without my eggs and butter. Another instance where many baby steps will be required.

I'll discuss what I learned at the seminar in my next post (before I forget it), because this upcoming weekend I'll be out of town again at the Lake Charles Agility Trial.  Whoppie!

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nathan's Gall Bladder Surgery

L to R:  Michele, Nathan, Allison
Those hospital gowns make you look
sick even if you're feeling fine.
Yesterday Nathan had his gall bladder removed with a minimally invasive technique called the DiVinci Robot.  Only a few surgeons in Baton Rouge are trained on this procedure.  They only make one incision thru the belly button, inflate the abdominal cavity with gas so there's plenty of room to operate, and send minute robot hands in through the navel to cut the gall bladder away from the liver, clamp off the arteries, and remove the sac out through the navel.  The whole procedure is visible to the surgeon through a lighted camera that goes in there too, and he watches a screen and manipulates the arms from a booth.  For those who aren't too squeemish, there's a YouTube video of the equipment and procedure here.  It's wonderful to know that somebody out there is really thinking and working hard to invent better medical procedures.

Typical surgery takes about an hour, 3-4 hours to sleep off the anesthesia and fight off nausea, and you go home same day with a few stitches and a skin patch over your navel.  They say you can return to work in a few days. Swim, play golf, run in a week.

Nathan fasted overnight.  Allison brought him to OLOL for 8 a.m., a reasonable hour. I arrived around 8:45. We hung around the prep room where they put him in hospital gown, laid him in a gurney, he signed a million forms, they poked his arm with an introvenous needle, took his blood pressure and temp several times, scanned his armband barcode, and answered his questions--his main and oft repeated question being "Can I get a video of the procedure?"  And in the end, he got one.

Nathan and me.
They make him leave recovery
in a wheel chair.
Allison HAD to depart for work at 9, so when Nathan went in for surgery at 10, I began texting her updates every time I got one.  While he slept it off in recovery, I poked around the gift shop and found him a cool helium balloon with an aquarium theme that says

"Get Better Soon"

And I mean it.  It's totally weird to see your tall, healthy, atheletic son in a hospital gown and then a wheel chair.  Made my stomach do several flips.

Allison picks Nathan up at the parking garage.
Allison got off in time to take him home around 4:30.  Total of 8.5 hours at the hospital. The aide wheeled him to the 2nd floor parking garage, where his chariot awaited.

I headed to Walgreens near OLOL Hospital to fill his prescriptions.  Man, I can't believe this Walgreens is so incompetent.  Located right at the exit to the hospital, they had long lines of cars at the drive up window and people inside wanting prescriptions filled, but they only had one active pharmacist, one aide typing in data, and an aide in training doing something with the other pharmacist, who was also on the phone.  And they are all back there joking around, hardly making eye contact with the customers. They said mine would fill in 30 minutes, but oops they never got around to typing in my info, so I had to wait another 30 minutes to get just 1 prescription filled. What poor business practices!

Nathan felt nauseus that whole evening but ate some pasta, and by next morning the nausea went away.  His biggest complaint -- a feeling of extreme dehydration and like he'd been punched in the stomach with a jack hammer!  And his throat hurt so he didn't feel like talking. They advised him to walk and move around to dispell the gas, not lay up in bed all day, prescribed an over the counter stool softener just in case, Gasex, Lortab for pain as needed or if he preferred, Extra Strength Tylenol.  He is able to eat normally.

By the way, Nathan had no gall stones.  The procedure was necessary because of a bile duct that had been malfunctioning for years and not expelling enough bile.  I believe he attributed this to eating too much rich food for too many years.  In the last 3 months, based on the incredible Forks Over Knives documentary and other sources, he's eliminated all animal products from his diet, has lost 25 lbs, and feels better than ever. He's learned to substitute other things for meat, such as the usual grains and beans, flax seed powder instead of egg as a binding agent, no-chicken boullion, Tofurkey for ground meat in chili, burgers, etc., which he says tastes good and has great texture, using more extensive spices for flavor, and he's experimenting with other products.  He's become addicted to fresh fruits and veggies.  His trek reminds me of my macrobiotic diet years ago, except that now the culture and the science is so much more supportive of meatless cuisine.  He is inspiring me to reduce my own meat intake once again. The circle turns back on itself.

Because this is a dog blog, I suppose I need to say at least one thing about dogs.  Nathan has 4 dachshunds and they all like to pounce on him.  Doc advised Nathan to wear a pillow over his navel when the dogs are loose.  Visualizing that makes me laugh.

The wonders of science give me faith in the human race!  But before I get too euphoric, let's see how he recovers.

Upwards and onward!
P.S.  Forks Over Knives streams on Netflix, and is available on DVD from and other sources.  They also have a website: and have a couple of cookbooks out now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cousin Lois - Professional Handler

My cousin Lois, the papillon breeder from whom I got Pepper, and whose puppies I sometimes bring to Louisiana to sell, was recently invited into the Professional Handlers Association Hall Of Fame.  She asked me to make up a full page ad for their publication, which I was happy to do using photos she provided.  Some of the photos were so faded, it took most of yesterday to spiff them up.  Here's the ad:

Congratulations, Cousin Lois!  When she submitted the ad, she received the following response back from PHA.

"Great job!! Love the photos from then to now and your text is worded very nicely."

So there's at least one other serious dog fancier in my family, and a very talented one at that!  And I have discovered another way to recompense her for my wonderful puppies in addition to working on her website.  All of which makes me very happy.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cold Weather Headgear - Trapper's Hat

In Kiln recently, with cold winds a-blowing, a fellow competitor was wearing a fur lined trapper's hat that covered her ears, strapped under her chin, and looked really warm. She said she got it from  I came home and perused the site, but was shocked at the prices between $100 and $260.  So I googled "trappers hat" and came up with the one pictured, from this link at, for only $19.99.  I purchased a book and qualified for FREE shipping, too. It came in yesterday, fits and looks great, so I no longer fear freezing my ears off at winter trials, nor my knitted cap falling off mid-run as it did last year.

With the new gloves my son bought me last Christmas, and presuming I remember to pack them both, my extremities are ready to withstand the freezing temps at Lake Charles.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Animal Control - "What Can I Do To Help?"

My 3 year old black cat, Kit Cat, went missing about a week ago.  She came in from the woods at about 4 weeks of age, and often disappears for 3 or 4 days (she's tiny but quite a hunter), but never this long.  At our neighborhood Halloween party someone mentioned that our new neighbor  traps cats, so I should check the pound.  They had found theirs at Animal Control twice this year.  WHAT?!?!?!

On top of that, one of our dog club members had just posted notice that her 18 month old Belgian Malanois had disappeared on Halloween morning.  I was now doubly concerned.

So a few days later began a new and horrifying adventure for me. . . . . . . . . . . a visit to the pound.  I tried the lazy way first, calling, but ran into their voice messaging system that kept me going in circles.  When I finally got a person, they said I had to come over and look.  Okay, I live on the opposite side of town so that took me a whole afternoon.  I didn't find my kitty or the dog, but learned they only have to hold animals for 3 days before euthanizing them.  Shit!  AND, to get Kit Cat out of there would have cost me up to $130!

While there, I asked for a tour of the area, and the volunteer seemed generous, almost zealous, to show me every nook and cranny of the facility, inside and out.  In retrospect, I interpret her efforts as a cry to an outsider for help.  I've never seen so many dogs, each held in 4' x 4' chain link cages, on concrete floors, with fluorescent lighting, with just a cot to lay on, no toys or blankets of course, no bones to chew on, fresh poop here and there.  The constant barking was deafening, my eyes were watering from the urine, and the stench was overpowering.  Of course there were plain dogs and pretty dogs, lots of labs and pit bulls, some pure but mostly mixed breeds, some friendly and pleading to be petted, a few aggressive dogs snarling as we walked by, a few mamma dogs nursing puppies.  All of them were basically alive and hopeful, but miserable.

There were several volunteers on site, 3 LSU students preparing to walk some dogs on leashes.  There were two fenced yards where hopefully all the dogs are allowed out in the sunshine for several hours a day.  My guide told me the center had instantly lost all their cats a few months back to a disease that ran rampant through the whole facility!  Was this another cry for help? It seemed so, for who on staff would dare admit to such a failure of a government run, taxpayer supported facility?  It was not good PR.

On the way out the lobby was crowded and the phone was ringing, but nobody at the desk to answer it.
Louis, one of the happier healthier looking dogs.
While I took no pictures, I can't get the picture of the place out of my mind.  I visited Animal Control's website when I got home and recognized several of the dogs I had just seen.  One, a male Black Mouthed Cur named Louis Armstrong, caught my eye as he looks so much like Lucky and was so friendly and looked so healthy.  The volunteer asked me to consider fostering him and others, that they are woefully overcrowded and new dogs coming in every day, and all are in peril.  I was tempted, but woefully unprepared. My thoughts -- how can I bring strange dogs into my home?  I'd need to convince my husband first. What if they are sick? I don't want my dogs getting sick.  Plus, do I have the time or energy to manage my dogs going crazy with every intruder?  Plus, I would go crazy not being able to give them each the full attention they need--like a bath, affection, grooming, training and playtime.  What would I do with them when I leave town for the weekend? What if I never could find them a permanent home?  Would I be stuck with 6 dogs (my 5 plus 1), then 7, then 10??????  For 20 more years????  I can't do that.

But my God, something needs to be done for all these poor suffering creatures.  What if one of my dogs got stuck in there?  There surely has to be a better way.  It would be criminal for Louis Armstrong to be euthanized for lack of finding a forever home.  My prayers are with him constantly as I find myself stewing in a big pot of "What Can I Do To Help" juices.

A few days later, after learning this shelter can euthanize after 3 days, and after talking it over with my husband, we decided we could try out the foster route with Louis.  Alas, his photo was no longer on their website.  I've called the pound repeatedly since then, and all I get is their voIce messaging system, and leave a message, but they have never called me back.  I am just sick with worry over Louis's fate.

Upwards and onward,